Writing Bible Studies: Feeling the Nudge?

Writing Bible studies is my passion, but it used to scare my freckles white. How are we supposed to improve on the inerrant Word? Thankfully, that’s not our goal. Whew! A good Bible study provides practical, 21st-century application to timeless truths filtered through the author’s life experiences.

So where do we begin? Some writers start with a theme such as comfort or joy. I love to start with a few passages of Scripture that resonate in my heart and mind that I’ve read during my morning quiet time, or heard in a sermon or Bible class. Both approaches work well because they provide a solid starting point.

Whether you’re writing a full-length Bible study, an abbreviated study for a magazine, or teaching a Bible class, I’ve learned there are five basic steps that seldom change. Begin by asking God for His wisdom and guidance, then:

1. Immerse yourself in the scene.

Writing Bible studies involves telling a story, so don’t neglect the scenery, human interaction, or history. Who wrote the passages? Where do they take place? What season is it? What’s the emotional temperature? Is there conflict? Who’s involved? From whose POV is the story told? How is God revealed? What’s the overarching lesson? Incorporating some or all of these elements invites readers to relate on a personal level.

2.  Look up the passages in their original language.

Whether Greek (New Testament) or Hebrew (Old Testament), it’s crucial to understand the accurate meaning of the words used. The Hebrew language contains no vowels, so English translators added them so we could understand the text. But sometimes the interpretations fall short of capturing the original connotation. For example, Psalm 23:3 promises, “He restores my soul.” In the Hebrew, “restores” means “to reset.” In other words, God reboots us! The rich meanings that I learn during this step often alter the trajectory of an entire study.

3. Research the culture of that time period.

For example, it’s hard to understand the depth of love that drove the prodigal son‘s father to run and welcome his son home until we learn that it was utterly disgraceful in that culture for a man of the father’s stature to lift his robes, run, and reveal his hairy knees. (Yes, really!) That cultural detail allows us to grasp on a deeper level God’s passionate pursuit of us when we go astray. Researching the cultural background provides vivid history and valuable insight.

4. Read Biblical commentaries.

Scholars use their theological expertise to point out nuances in the original languages and cultural idiosyncrasies that help you parallel today’s trends. They often cross-reference words, verses, and similar scenarios throughout Scripture that aid your writing perspective. Also, several commentators lived in the 19-20th centuries, so that really cool, old-school writing style lights up my imagination!

5. Use reference books and resources.

Just like the Chicago Manual of Style represents a must-have for fiction writers, Bible study writers need particular resources readily available. I find these indispensable:

Last, but by no means least, every Bible study writer needs to be a faithful student of Scripture. Here’s a handy Bible Reading Checklist to download and tuck in your Bible. It’s a useful tool to check off the books and chapters as you read them.

Regardless of how you approach writing Bible studies, keep writing. Relentlessly ask God to guide you. Your freckles will return, I promise! This process enriches your spiritual journey and provides that same opportunity for others. This may be a tedious process, but you’re not just writing about any story. It’s THE story.

Let’s chat:  If you write Bible studies, what works for you?  If you’ve never written one, what did you find most helpful?

46 Replies to “Writing Bible Studies: Feeling the Nudge?”

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. I didn’t grow up going to church. Until I started actually reading the Bible when I was 23, I had all kinds of questions and doubts. But the really cool thing is that it shows us how much God loves us. I’d consider it a privilege to send you a Bible, my friend. I don’t think anybody gets tired of hearing how much they’re loved. And as you read it, it would be awesome to hear from you. I won’t know all the answers. But we can sure look for them in there together.

      1. I wish all people of faith would respond with love, respect and wisdom like you did. It breaks my heart when “believers” lash out to comments like “Hypnotics” with anger and judgement. No wonder Chirstians have such a bad rap today. Thank you thank you thank you!

    2. Good morning. I’m so glad you stopped by this blog today. You know there’s a verse is the bible that talks about how scripture just seems like foolishness to people who don’t know God. I can certainly understand that. I’ve been in church all my life and there are still parts of the bible that I read and think – that’s got to sound so crazy to people who don’t know Jesus. Even Christians struggle with some of it. I think the difference is that when you accept that God loves you totally and unconditionally you are able to take some things on faith and be ok with not understanding everything. You’re definitely not alone. I hope you will read the bible – Luke is a great place to start – and come back here. We’ll be praying for you.

  1. This is so timely for me, Donna! I am feeling the nudge to write a study on a particular verse that God has constantly shown me is a vital truth throughout the entire Bible. The idea excites me, and yes, has totally scared my freckles white (awesome line, btw). I’m filing this post with my notes as reference for when I dig in. It will take a while but I’m looking forward to the challenge. 🙂

    1. Dineen, I’m so excited for you! I love it when God “pesters” us like that. He must have something amazing to say through you about that verse. I can’t wait to see what it is! 🙂

  2. Donna, I have such respect for those of you who dive deeply into God’s word and bring out aspects the lay reader like me could miss. I have some of the tools you mentioned and have found them a great help.

  3. Get outta’ town…and my head! 🙂 I have just finished applying with Lifeway to write for them – curriculum/bible studies, etc. What really great timing for this post. I hope this is something that will open up for me, but it is very humbling and it’s a huge responsibility – “rightly dividing the word of truth”. We’ll see where God leads, but I’m definitely keeping this post. Thank you so much!

  4. Thanks for this, Donna – a really practical and thoughtful post. As a fiction writer who’s had one Christian meditational work published, I do feel the nudge from time to time to write some more Scripture-based material. Could you give some idea about markets for Bible Studies and how to approach these markets?

    1. Great question! There are several Christian magazines that include Bible studies, so that’s a great place to start and get your feet wet. For more in-depth studies, look within your church body for opportunities. There is ALWAYS a place for a good, solid Bible study. Blessings as you dig in and write!

  5. These are great resources. I also just spent some time on your site. Wow. You have a real passion for scripture.

    I knew I liked you! Thanks Donna.

  6. Excellent post. Thanks so much. I teach an adult Bible study and I find these 3 sites invaluable:
    http://preceptaustin.org/ has zillions of sermons and commentaries by the great Biblical scholars and preachers all indexed and organized, http://bible.cc/romans/14-7.htm gives verse by verse commentary with parallel translations, cross references and commentaries (I didn’t give you the home page – this is the page I’m on this a.m.) and also http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/ has lots of resources and you can look up a lengthy passage in up to 5 different translations (you choose) at a time. The more I study the more I am amazed at the treasure in each little verse, the intricacies of God’s Holy word and the divine connections between the Old and New Testaments. Praise God!

    1. Debra, thanks so much for sharing the resources that help you write! I absolutely LOVE the last line of your post. So, so, so true. Blessings as you write and teach!

  7. You are right about all of your advice. I have written devotions for years, partly because I had to do one every morning when I taught in a Christian school, but without exception, the only absolutely essential element to every Bible study is God’s new revelation every morning. I could do the research, but He always provided the wisdom.

    1. Well said, JoAnne. There’s absolutely no replacement for starting out seeking His wisdom and guidance. Blessings!

    1. Jessica, I’m right there with you. Writing Bible studies is the single biggest spiritual endeavor that has made the difference in my walk. Treasures galore! I think we need to get some pirate eye patches. 🙂

  8. This was such a great post. I have been working on editing a Bible study program that a friend and I wrote and taught. However, as I taught it and have gone back through it I feel there are parts that are either incomplete or lacking depth. Your post gave me some great ways I can approach what I have written from a new perspective and give it some breath and depth. I really enjoyed this post because I have felt called to begin writing Bible studies for the last few years but until this one never had the guts. I can truly say it has completely changed and challenged my walk with the Lord.

    1. I’m doing the Snoopy dance, Karla! I love how God provides exactly what we need precisely when we need it most. I can hear your heart and love for Bible study. Joy! You’re in my prayers as you edit your Bible study program. Blessings!

      1. I have been blessed over the past couple of weeks that the Lord has been pouring into me exactly what I have needed in spades and this was another moment all I could do was just sit and say “Thank you, Father”

        I am excited to dig back into my study next week when my kids return to school. Have a great Labor Day weekend.

  9. Great info, Donna. Thank you for the resources. I haven’t written a Bible study, but have written devotionals. My spiritual life is enriched also by putting my experiences into words and sharing what I learned with others. I admire those who can go deeper into the Word to do a Bible study. Enjoyed this post and the comments, too.

  10. Donna, I enjoyed your post. I’ve never written a Bible study, but I’ve taught some. I appreciate the things you shared to consider in preparing to write a study. They are right on. 😉 I really liked what you shared about understanding the cultural background, and how you applied it to us today when you said: “That cultural detail allows us to grasp on a deeper level God’s passionate pursuit of us when we go astray.”

    Thanks for sharing your passion for God’s word and giving tips for writing Bible studies!

    1. If you teach Bible studies, you’re halfway there, Jeanne! You already have insight on what is meaningful and enriching for a study when you see the live feedback, so digging to write your own is only a stone’s throw away. Blessings!

  11. I agree, writing a bible study would turn my freckles white! Glad there are writers who have a passion for this.

    1. Thanks, Jordyn. Just think of all the cool medical ways you could reverse the freckle-whitening process in your writing! 🙂

  12. Thank you so much for this post. And so timely. Just today I was talking to a friend about how I practically get hives if I have to come up with my own teaching for Sunday school (we all take turns). I’m more comfortable using someone elses study that includes a DVD teaching. It’s become kind of a crutch. As far as what was most helpful. Everything. I never even knew where to start to put together my teaching. Thanks again!

    1. Kelly, I’m soooo glad this was helpful to you. I’d love to hear when you dig in and write your own. Blessings!

  13. This is great, Donna. I’ve never written a bible study although I think it would be fun. I do, however, write devotionals and I think a lot of your tips/suggestions would apply to those as well.

    1. Erin, you’re exactly right. Writing Bible studies and devotionals use the same basics. Devotionals are just shorter!

  14. Donna, I taught women’s Bible studies for 15 years, but never once thought of writing a Bible study! Many of your techniques for writing a study are techniques I used to prepare to teach . . . but I will leave the writing to you! Excellent post. Going to Tweet it now.

    1. Wow, Beth, what an amazing privilege to teach Bible studies for 15 years! I can see we need to grab coffee and chat. 🙂 Thanks for your affirmation. Blessings!

  15. I have never written a Bible study, but I feel led to use the writing courses I’ve used to write about the Bible and how it has helped me, as well to gain more insight into the Bible.

  16. Thank you for your insightful and helpful post. During my quiet time last week, I had an idea for a Bible study lesson/article/workshop (right now, I’m not sure which one it is!), but have been a little intimidated about writing it. After reading your post, I feel prepared to start writing.

  17. Wow! You couldn’t have summed up my feelings about writing a Bible Study any better than “scare my freckles white”! God has given me a topic about 5 months ago and I have been shaking in my pants ever since. I already have a good foundation of study on the topic. I still have a lot more to study. God has poked and prodded me over the past 5 months, so I was shakily searching for software to help me write this study. As I Googled “Bible Study writing software”, this post showed up in the search. I guess I need to stop shaking in my pants, as He always knows just what I need and when I need it! I don’t know why that is sometimes hard for me to remember. With that said, any suggestions for writing software? Or is MS Word a good place to start? and Thank You for this encouraging post!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: